Genetically Modified Grain

opinion Essay
3285 words
3285 words

Genetically Modified Grain

Thesis: Genetically Modified Grain has many benefits and problems which have become very controversial. While these problems need to be addressed, the benefits outweigh the drawbacks. GMO grain should be grown and foods containing them should not be required to bare a label.


Genetically improved crops are not a new phenomenon. Plants have been selectively crossbred for centuries to develop heartier and more productive hybrids. Now, Biotechnology offers us the ability to transfer desired traits into plants much faster and more selectively by merely transplanting the desired gene into the grain. Genetically Modified Grain (GMO grain) is now available to the public. It has the potential to revolutionize the agriculture industry by giving us the potential to substantially increase yield, lessen the strain on the environment, improve economics for farmers, and help meet incredible demand for food that will come as the population nearly doubles in forthcoming decades (Knutson, 1999). However, GMO grain also has its drawbacks. It has been extensively tested, but ultimately, the long-term health outcome to humans and animals is unknown. GMO grain is highly technical and expensive to research and develop. There is the possibility that larger companies will form a monopoly. Also, there are many ethical issues to consider including the development of terminator technology-a gene inserted into seeds that causes the next generation of seeds to be sterile.


One example of a genetically modified seed that is commonly used today is Bt Corn. The Bt gene that is used comes from bacteria-Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt.). It has been used in sprays and powder form for years. Recently, this ...

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...pany Letter. May 19, 1999.

Hein, Pam and Weinzierl, Kathy. The Pentograph, "Do American Consumers Accept Genetically Altered Foods?" Sept. 27, 1999.

Knutson, Ronald. "Genetic Crops Protect Environment." Sept. 15, 1999.

Minnichsoffer, Tony. Novartis Media Release, "Novartis Commits $450,000 to Public Science Education to Expand Ag Biotech Awareness." Sept. 1999.

Novartis Seed Publication. "Biotechnology Talk Points." Oct. 1999.

Shonsey, Ed. Novartis Company Letter. Sept. 1999.

Web Resources available: Nov. 4, 1999.

Edwards, Rob. "Devilish seed" [Archive:Oct. 10, 1998]. available: Nov. 4, 1999.

" 'Terminator' Technology Threatens World Food Security." March 1999. available: Nov. 4, 1999.

In this essay, the author

  • Argues that gmo grain has many benefits and problems which have become very controversial. it has the potential to substantially increase yield, lessen the strain on the environment, improve economics for farmers, and meet incredible demand for food.
  • Explains that bt corn is an example of a genetically modified seed that is commonly used today.
  • Explains that 4.5 million acres were planted to bt. hybrids in 1997. today, 30 to 40% of corn and 50% of soybeans are gmo crops.
  • Opines that biotechnology offers farmers the capability to significantly increase yields without sacrificing huge tracts of forests and wetlands to low-yield crops and pasture.
  • Explains that without pesticides, we could not have met global food demands for the past 50 years. insect-protected corn allows american farmers to increase their yields between 5 and 20%.
  • Explains the economic advantages of using gmo grain. enhanced seeds carry built-in protection, which minimizes or completely eliminates the cost of fuel and labor.
  • Explains that a three-year study in north carolina found that, on average, bt. fields used insecticides 0.7 times compared to conventional fields 2.7 times.
  • Explains the health benefits of genetically enhanced crops, such as fewer bug damage to the ear and lower levels of toxins and allergens.
  • Explains that there are problems with gmo grain. critics of biotechnology claim that science is not advanced enough to guarantee the safety of the new bioengineered food.
  • Explains that novartis seed, inc. develops genetics and value-added products and produces and sells corn, soybean, alfalfa, sunflower, sorghum, wheat, sugarbeet, vegetable, and flower seeds.
  • Explains that biotech ingredients, primarily from corn and soybeans, are used in everything from tortilla chips to soda and baby formula. does this take away the consumers right to choose?
  • Explains that identity preservation is difficult to establish due to cross-pollination and physical and technical difficulties.
  • Explains monsanto's terminator technology, which attaches a promoter from an gene called late embryogenesis abundant (lea) to the gene that stops germination and inserts it into the seed.
  • Explains that 1.4 billion people worldwide depend on keeping their own seeds for next the year's crop. 15-20% of the world’s food is grown by farmers who cannot afford to buy seeds every year.
  • Argues that farmers who don't purchase monsanto seeds with terminator technology may find their saved seeds sterile. terminator genes may be transferred by pollen, which may cause mutations that could spread to other plants.
  • Opines that terminator technology is a recipe for exacerbating and greatly increasing the problem of world hunger.
  • Opines that public funds were used to develop terminator technology that has no agronomic benefit to farmers and no benefits to consumers.
  • Explains that monsanto says that the terminator's enormous profitability will motivate seed companies to intensify research and the whole world will benefit.
  • Explains that a study by the wirthlin group found that 1 in 3 americans admitted to knowing little about biotechnology.
  • Opines that journals want to publish studies because they are interesting, and research authors get around the fact that the studies are misleading with wiggle words like 'this is only a laboratory study'.
  • Analyzes professor mick crawley's response to the bollworm article: "these little studies are interesting because they show the things that could happen, but they don't resolve the problems."
  • Opines that some scientists don't accept the general consensus of the safety of gmo grain and are willing to use questionable methods to take their case to the front line.
  • Explains that the usda, fda, and epa have tested gmo products for at least a decade. novartis' bt corn in particular has been tested by these three government agencies, as well as by thirty scientific communities around the world.
  • Explains that chemical pesticide opponents have endorsed sprays and powders because they are effective against target insects and harmless to birds, mammals, and beneficial insects.
  • Opines that activists want to minimize the potential risks associated with the use of pesticides. they are puzzled when the same people oppose a technology that would accomplish this goal.
  • Explains that the european public is crying out for labeling of any food that contains gmo crops despite the reassurances of their regulatory government agencies.
  • Explains that there are companies that have responded to this scare and are taking a non-gmo policy. gerber and novartis are owned by the same company.
  • Explains that gmo grain companies are fighting back by starting a public education and awareness program. novartis believes openness will play an important role in the acceptance of biotechnology.
  • Explains that novartis has worked with the chicago museum of science and industry to open a 4000 square foot exhibit to educate people on modern food production and how the use of technology improves the quality and quantity of food and fiber.
  • Explains that novartis is not trying to eliminate all other methods of farming, but rather to gain acceptance of their farming technology.
  • Concludes that gmo grain offers many benefits and a few drawbacks, but it is important to consider both these aspects carefully.
  • Cites the american council on science and health's "biotechnology makes rice even more healthful."
  • Analyzes how gallivan, karen park, hein, pam, and weinzierl, kathy. the pentograph, "do american consumers accept genetically altered foods?" september 27, 1999.
  • Explains that novartis seed publication's "biotechnology talk points" is available on nov. 4, 1999.
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